Jeff Price, who started his own record label in 1991 when he was in high school and is now the CEO of TuneCore, just posted this article to the Huffington Post. He talks about the way it’s changed, the marketing of music, that is.
For the past century, artists could record, manufacture, market, and, to some degree, promote their own music, but no matter if they were The Beatles, Elvis or Led Zepplin, they could not distribute it and get in placed on the shelves of the stores across the country; the required costs and infrastructure of the physical world were just too massive — a 500,00 square foot warehouse staffed with 30 people, trucks and inventory systems, insurance, a field staff of 30 people walking to music stores leveraging, begging, pleading and paying to get the CD, album, 8-track, wax spool, etc., on the precious shelves of the retail stores — and checking up afterwards. Distribution was out of the hands of any one person, no matter how dedicated or wealthy. Without the music available to buy, there was no way for it to sell.
Record labels made artists famous and made money off that fame by selling the music — without the music available to buy, there was no way for it to sell. The record labels exclusively had the relationships with the distributors (and in the case of the “four major record labels” the same company owns both). Therefore, with only one means to the desired end, the goal for many artists was to get “signed” to a label.
Record labels were in a very unique position of power due to their exclusive access to distribution, they were not only the singular gatekeepers to a career for an artist by “signing” them to an exclusive contract, but they were also the subjective “deciders” as to what music was pushed out and promoted to the media outlets. With a “signing,” the labels acquired exclusive rights to and from the artist. In return, the label advanced money while providing the relationships, expertise and infrastructure to record, manufacture, market, promote, distribute and sell the music. Of all the artists and music creators in the world, far less than 1% got chosen by the labels due to the risks and economics of the “brick and mortar” world. Of all the music created around the globe, even less has had the opportunity to be discovered and heard by the masses.
And then the world changed thanks to the Internet and digital media…….
As i read the article I realized even more strongly just how important it is for our listener supported, volunteer operated radio station to implement our digital music library as soon as we possibly can.